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Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Curbing corruption and fostering accountability in fragile settings - why an imperilled media needs better support
BBC Media Action
An independent media is one of the most effective assets we have in efforts to curb corruption and foster accountability. Yet it is deeply imperilled, particularly in fragile states and often poorly understood by the international development sector. This policy working paper argues that unless development strategies begin to prioritise support to independent media, corruption may continue to go unchecked and the accountability of states will diminish.

Africa’s digital revolution: a look at the technologies, trends and people driving it
World Economic Forum
We are at the dawn of a technological revolution that will change almost every part of our lives – jobs, relationships, economies, industries and entire regions. It promises to be, as Professor Klaus Schwab has written, “a transformation unlike anything humankind has experienced before”. In no place is that more true than Africa, a continent that has yet to see all the benefits of previous industrial revolutions. Today, only 40% of Africans have a reliable energy supply, and just 20% of people on the continent have internet access.

Knowing what we don’t know (on the web)

Tanya Gupta's picture
Welcome to the third blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series. In this year long skills transfer blog series we use an interactive and just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data.
 
In our last posting we talked about six techniques to make our questions more precise so as to get the best answers from the Web. In this blog, we look at the other side of the equation: how can we be reasonably confident that the answers we get from an online resource are correct? How can we know that the web has given us the right answer when we do not have the subject matter expertise ourselves?


Path to “Confucian” wisdom

How to know what you don’t know

The adage “True wisdom is knowing what you don't know” has been attributed to Confucius. While addressing this philosophical statement is beyond the scope of this blog, it is appropriate to title a pragmatic article borrowing from ancient wisdom. Knowing what you do not  know is the essential problem of learning in the modern era. Legacy learning depends on teachers and textbooks who you can rely on to be correct. However, for contemporary learning - how can you tell the correct from the incorrect if you don’t have sufficient knowledge of a domain?
 
We describe a four step process one can use to eliminate the really bad answers and get a decent idea of which ones are very good.
 
The process may not be able guarantee the answers we got are absolutely correct, but the level of accuracy of the answers we will get by following the process will be useful in most cases.

The things we do: Why people hate Uber’s surge pricing so much

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Globally, citizens from Guadalajara to Chengdu both love and loath ride sharing app, Uber. 

We love it for the convenience, the ease with which we can pay, and the ability to avoid intemperate weather conditions— all though a few taps on our mobile phone. 
But… we loath it when surge pricing is in effect.  “Surge pricing” increases the cost of rides by many times the normal fare when demand is swelling, most commonly at rush hour, during inclement weather, or on a public holiday.  In these cases, the supply of drivers is constant or even low, creating a shortage of available rides.  By raising the price of each ride, Uber encourages more drivers to pick up passengers and rations the available supply of rides to the customers who value the service the most (those who are willing to pay more).
 
Nevertheless, while surge pricing may make economic sense, it feels like price gouging for many customers.  The recent clampdown on surge pricing by the Delhi and Karnataka governments illustrates the intense debate over Uber’s policies that has been circulating worldwide. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal even called surge pricing “daylight robbery”.
 
The debate has polarized opinion not just in India, but also in cities as diverse as Sydney, Paris, New York and Budapest. The reaction is even more severe when there is an emergency, such as during the December 2014 hostage crisis in Sydney, where a masked gunman held people captive in a café. As the central business district was cleared out by police, surge pricing automatically kicked in. Customers were appalled by Uber’s apparent insensitivity to the situation. The outrage grew so intense that Uber was forced it to suspend surge pricing and offer free rides.

Information is power: Silvio Waisbord on how digital technology changes the public sphere and notions of privacy

Roxanne Bauer's picture
How do digital media affect traditional theories of the “public sphere” and power? Are we living in a modern-day panopticon?

The notion of the “public sphere” is useful worldwide to consider how citizens can and do articulate demands to the market or to states. The public sphere is generally conceived as a place (figurative or literal) in which citizens can share information, debate issues and opinions, and restrain the interests of the powerful elite. This space is critical to the formation of public will and the transmission of it to official authorities.

In contrast, the Panopticon is a design for a prison or jail which allows watchmen to observe all inmates at all times without the inmates knowing whether they are being observed or not.  The idea has been used to discuss online privacy, as individuals are often unaware of how governments and companies collect and use the information they gather about them online.  Moreover, the revelation that governments and companies work together to “spy” on citizens, as revealed by Edward Snowden revived the concern that a modern-day panopticon might be possible.   

But these concepts raise another important question: How can the public sphere, which aims to limit excess power, continue to function if the state is monitoring citizen activity?  Much of the information that is collected and tracked online is willingly shared by individuals as they search the internet, use mobile apps, and contact friends and family. This activity is vital to the future of a public sphere around the world, but it also allows governments and companies to intrude in our private lives.

Silvio Waisbord explores these two evergreen, yet very immediate concerns. He argues that while digital technologies have improved the capacities of states and companies to track human activity, digital media can also be used for democratic purposes. 
 
The modern public sphere vs. The online panopticon

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Technology for Transparency: Cases from Sub-Saharan Africa
Harvard Political Review
Over the last decade, Africa has experienced previously unseen levels of economic growth and market vibrancy. Developing countries can only achieve equitable growth and reduce poverty rates, however, if they are able to make the most of their available resources. To do this, they must maximize the impact of aid from donor governments and NGOs and ensure that domestic markets continue to diversify, add jobs, and generate tax revenues. Yet, in most developing countries, there is a dearth of information available about industry profits, government spending, and policy outcomes that prevents efficient action.

Popular Uprising against Democratically Elected Leaders. What Makes it Legitimate?
Huffington Post
In the last five years, democratically elected governments in countries as diverse as Guatemala, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Ukraine, Thailand, Macedonia, South Africa, Spain, Iceland, Hungary and presently governments in Moldova, Brazil and Poland were all challenged and some of them forced to step down by mass-based popular uprisings. If it had not been for the strategic weakness of the Occupy movement, the United States might have also seen toppling of its own democratically elected leaders closely tied to business elites. This might still happen. If Donald Trump wins the presidential election and attempts to implement some of his most outrageous campaign promises popular uprising may be in the making sooner than we think.  When is people rising against their own government legitimate? A number of Western philosophical treaties, historical practice and agreements, including declarations of people’s self-determination rights stressed the moral and legal permissibility, and even necessity, to rise up against abusive regimes.

Does “Rational Ignorance” make working on transparency and accountability a waste of time?

Duncan Green's picture

Guest post from Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns, Oxfam America (gosh, they do have august sounding job titles, don’t they?)

As the poorest half of the planet sees that just 62 people have more wealth than all of them, collective frustration at extreme inequality is increasing.  To rebalance power and wealth, many in our community are turning to transparency, accountability, participation and inclusion.  Interrogate that “development consensus,” however, and opinions are fractured over the benefits and costs of transferring power from the haves to the have-nots.

Social Media Information OverloadIn truth, our theories of change often diverge.  Most development organizations may agree on the need to advocate for more Investment, Innovation, Information, strong Institutions and Incentives, but some organizations are genuinely committed to only one of those “I’s”, and that can be problematic:  Oxfam often finds itself choosing and moving between the relentless positivity of politically benign theories of change (e.g. we just need more “investment” or “innovation”), the moderation of those who focus exclusively on transparent “information” with no clear pathway to ensure its political relevance, and the relentless negativity of activists that think the only way to transform “institutions” or realign the “incentives” of elites is to beat them up in public.

Oxfam’s challenge is to be both explicit in our theory of change and show sophistication and dexterity in working across that spectrum.  If Oxfam’s theory of change is based on a citizen-centered approach to tackling global systemic challenges like extreme inequality, then our opportunity may be engaging the “rational ignorance” of citizens and consumers.
 

Media (R)evolutions: Convergence around mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Globally, all regions of the world are gaining access to the internet and mobile phones, with mobile phones driving a great deal of the gains. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of individuals now have access to a mobile phone. Convergence around mobile phones is occurring in two simultaneous and reinforcing ways: mobile phones are superseding or preceding other communication methods as the technology of choice for individuals looking for greater interconnectedness, and they are also incorporating (rather than replacing) other mediums in the provision of content.

Mobile phones are cheap, easy to use, provide many benefits, and do not require much literacy or numeracy for basic use. They can be shared, prepaid, billed in prices per second, depending on the needs and abilities of the owner(s).  In Cameroon, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, more than four in five mobile phone owners have simple phones, not capable of browsing the internet.  

Mobile phones are also capable of providing a diversity of interactive activities. Mobile apps, text messaging, calling, and internet browsing are all possible from these small devices. In African countries, social networking, sending and receiving e-mails, instant messaging, and checking facts and definitions are the most common uses of the internet. The consumption of games, online newspapers, books, radio, and video also signals that rather than replacing these traditional mediums, the internet incorporates their digital versions.

Uses of internet, mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa

Frequently Asked (not so smart) Questions

Abir Qasem's picture

This blog is the second of the series of a year-long skills transfer discussion/blog series on technology aided gut (TAG) checks. We use an interactive and just in time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data. 

People using computers in an internet cafe in Kampala, UgandaMany of us fondly remember from our school (and college) days the best and the most inspiring teachers always told us that "there are no bad questions".  No matter how silly our questions were, the best teachers always had the talent to transform an uninformed question into a learning experience. Even in the age of AI (Artificial Intelligence) that quality is still uniquely human (Google or even IBM’s Watson are not there yet)!  So, for an adult learner, who is using online resources to learn technical skills, ­asking the right question is important.  If you don’t ask the right question, the Internet will not give you an answer. Even worse than not getting an answer, you may get the wrong answer. This blog is all about asking the right question. More specifically, this blog is about coming up with precise and specific search queries when you are searching online resources to further your knowledge or solve a specific problem.

The Internet is the world's largest knowledge repository, but it is still far from becoming a one-stop knowledge shop. We still need a vast education industry (in the US, it is close to a trillion dollars) consisting of teachers, mentors, training, schools/colleges etc. Unlike machines, and, by extension, unlike the Internet, we humans have an unequalled capability to deal with ambiguity. We do not need to always work under a precise set of rules. We also have a propensity to be ambiguous in framing our questions. Therefore, we need expensive human intervention to remove the ambiguity factor from the human-to-machine knowledge loop.

In the physical world, there is a high level of interactivity between the asker of a question and the human provider. This interactivity- coupled with the human ability to deal with ambiguity- helps refine the question by making it precise enough to answer. On the Web, such interactivity is much harder to attain.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Poverty is Sexist 2016 Report
ONE Campaign
Last year ONE released its first “Poverty is Sexist” report, aimed at pressuring leaders to put girls and women at the heart of key policies and decisions. The report demonstrated two truths: 1. That poverty and gender inequality go hand-in-hand. Being born in a poor country and being born female amount to a double whammy for girls and women: they are significantly worse off than their counterparts in richer countries, and in every sphere they are hit harder by poverty than men. 2. Investments targeted towards girls and women pay dividends in lifting everyone out of poverty more quickly, and are essential in the overall fight to end extreme poverty everywhere. 2015 saw the world debate and decide the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and a climate deal at COP 21 in Paris. This year, leaders have the opportunity to turn these aspirations into results.
 
Practice Note: Young People's Participation in Peacebuilding
UNDP
Throughout the world, more than 600 million young people live in fragile and conflict-affected contexts today.  They are among the most affected by the multiple and often interlinked forms of violence – from political violence and criminal gangs to organized crime and terrorist attacks that plague their countries and communities, bearing enormous and long-lasting human, social and economic costs. Over the past decade, the involvement of some young people – particularly young men, but also increasingly young women – in violence and extremist groups has led some to paint youth generally as a threat to global security and stability. But research shows that youth who participate actively in violence are a minority, while the majority of youth – despite the injustices, deprivations and abuse they can confront daily, particularly in conflict contexts – are not violent and do not participate in violence. Moreover, a growing body of evidence suggests that young women and men can and do play active roles as agents of positive and constructive change.
 

Media (R)evolutions: Dramatic spread of internet, mobile phones not enough to get women online

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Also available in: Español

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

The global expansion and near ubiquity of the internet is now taken for granted in many spaces in upper- and middle-income countries. The number of internet users has more than tripled over the past decade—from 1 billion in 2005 to an estimated 3.2 billion at the end of 2015. Mobile phones are the most pervasive way for people to access the internet, and their use has spread through developed and developing countries alike.   

However, this is still not the case for everyone.  Nearly 2 billion people do not own a mobile phone, and nearly 60 percent of the world’s population has no access to the internet. The World Bank’s recent World Development Report 2016 (WDR) on “Digital Dividends” notes that “For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access.”  

Moreover, the digital divide within countries can be as high as that between countries, and one reason for that is that women are less likely than men to use or own digital technologies.  According to a recent Pew Global Survey, “There are gender gaps on many aspects of technology use. For example, in 20 nations, men are more likely than women to use the internet. These differences are especially stark in African nations. Elsewhere, equal shares of men and women use the internet. But large gender gaps also appear on reported smartphone ownership (men are more likely to own a smartphone) in many countries, including Mexico (+16), Nigeria (+13), Kenya (+12) and Ghana (+12).”
Gender divide on internet use     Gender Divide on smartphone ownership
       


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